American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #156

Great bird blogging this week on off gulls, nemesis birds, the young birder of the year contest, Arizona, and plumage diversity in young Northern Harriers.

Chandeleur Gulls, those bizarre hybrid offspring of Kelp and Herring Gulls from the Chandeleur Islands of Louisiana, may be turning up across North America, sowing confusion everywhere they go. Amar Ayyash at Anything Larus has more:

It seems natural to assume that the pure Kelps and pure Herrings from the Chandeleur Islands went on to unite with colonies of their respective conspecifics. But is it possible that some went on to further hybridize? And what about the hybrid offspring? Surely some must have favored an association with their Kelp parents while others with their Herring progenitors.

It’s always a banner day when we come to terms with a nemesis bird. At The Boy Who Cried Heron, Josh catches up with a Blue-headed Vireo:

We started at the cemetery.  It was pretty dead there (pun intended), but we did see some bird activity. We never bumped into our target, though. Evan spent more time reading grave markers and asking questions about where bodies were buried.  He was creeped out when I told him we were walking above buried people.  What struck me while walking through the cemetery was the number of recent dates on tombstones; death is a constant.  It was particularly sobering to see that one man was born just four days before me. I was reminded of the brevity of life and the importance of living to the fullest.

The illustration module of the Young Birder of the Year Contest is one of our more popular options for would-be winners. Illustrator Sophie Webb offers some tips at the Eyrie:

When I initially receive  the entries for the competition  I quickly look through everyone’s art and roughly rank them. One of my first criteria is: can I identify the birds depicted without the use of the captions? With this in mind, I then look at whether the pictures show something more about the birds: a behavior or perhaps an indication of habitat or preferably both. Next it’s media usage and how well that’s handled, and lastly, does the artist have a particular style or vision? The best entries are those that are well organized and labeled with enough pictures submitted to get a sense of the artist’s ability with a combination of both sketches (often with accompanying notes) and more finished pieces.

Illustrator Catherine Hamilton is back at her Birdspot blog and that’s great news for fans of her art. She introduces a recent trip to Arizona:

The avian jewels of the Arizona spring and summer were long gone, desirable birds all of them and some not found anywhere else in the United States, but those were the birds of years past. My years of twitchiness and multiple visits and efficient itineraries and checklists and always with the counting and the ticking and the collecting – well, those were something else. I wanted something different.

Raptor expert Jerry Liguouri introduces the unexpected diversity in young Northern Harrier plumage:

It has been said that juvenile male Harriers have paler underwing coverts than juvenile females. This is not really true, there is considerable overlap, and sexing juvenile Harriers based on plumage is inaccurate at best. The eye color does differ in juveniles (males yellowish, females brown), but that is almost impossible to see in flight. And, shape and flight style of males and females differs slightly but it takes lots of practice to be comfortable noticing this. Females are of course larger, but this is really only noticeable with a direct comparison. The best way to sex juvenile Harriers in the field is NOT TO!